When a nation is faced with a fait accompli (such as the existence of millions of illegal aliens within its borders), the prudent and most promising response is to frankly acknowledge the intractability of the situation (and the impossibility of obtaining an ideal solution) and focus its energy and resources on making the best of a bad situation.
For anyone to wish for the status quo ante or to excite among the public expectations that such an ideal solution is feasible is disingenuous if not demagogic. The existence of millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is the proverbial bell that cannot be un-rung. Ignoring that reality will lead to failed policy solutions and the negative consequences discussed below.
That there are millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. prompts from some quarters a clarion call that they be summarily rounded up and deported. But not only is that much easier said than done, it will a) require the co-optation of local law enforcement agencies by the federal government, b) be very costly financially, and c) inevitably result in violations of constitutional rights of American citizens who are inadvertently caught up in the dragnet.
It will be a logistical nightmare with considerable unintended consequences. Here’s why.
The Co-optation of Local Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs)
The rounding up, detention, processing, and deportation of millions of illegal aliens is a labor intensive undertaking. Absent the use of the military, the federal government simply does not have that level of manpower.
There is also the issue of where to hold these detainees between the time they are taken into custody, processed, and then deported. Enter the state and local government law enforcement agencies.
There is no national police force in the U.S. and no federal agency with enough personnel to carry off this mass deportation task (again, absent the use of the military). The bulk of general law enforcement in the United Sates is carried out by local law enforcement agencies (city and county police departments, sheriff’s deputies, and state police/highway patrol agencies). These agencies will, of necessity, be required to redirect their general law enforcement efforts to effectuate a mass deportation of millions of illegals.
To make use of these local LEOs and ensure that their efforts are directed toward the national goal of mass deportation, the usual public safety functions of the local LEOs will have to be subordinated to the federal demands, since federal law and policy can preempt local law and policy.
This shift in focus is likely to be felt by those in the community who have come to rely principally on LEOs for general criminal law enforcement and the protection of persons and property it affords, as well as a host of other services provided by local LEOs.
Local law enforcement agencies already handle criminal cases involving both illegal immigrants and citizens, and the mandates of this proposed mass deportation will impinge upon, if not reorder, the public safety priorities that local government officials have set for their communities.
Thus, in addition to the fiscal impact, there will be a policy impact as well. Time and resources are finite things in the best of economic times.
Police chiefs, sheriffs and members of councils, through their budgets, policies, and administrative decisions, have established public safety priorities and routines based upon community needs and what they can afford. These routines include enforcement of the criminal law against illegal aliens.
Given the choice between having local law enforcement officers devote their time to criminal law enforcement or to the mandates of a mass deportation effort via civil immigration enforcement, the former is the better and more critical use of public safety resources and of an officer’s time on duty.
The fact of the matter is that if a law enforcement agency cannot perform function A without taking time and/or money away from function B, one of the two has to be sacrificed. If A is mass civil immigration law enforcement on behalf of the federal agencies directly responsible for that and B is general criminal law enforcement and related public safety services, it defies logic to require a local law enforcement agency to do A instead of B.
But that is what will happen if we go down the road of mass deportation.
The Cost to Local Governments
I would caution city and county council members and local taxpayers to consider the degree to which a mass deportation effort will interfere with critical public safety priorities set by local governments and to analyze the fiscal impact it could have on their governments. I submit that there is good reason for local governments to vigorously oppose such a mass deportation.
Any mass deportation effort would essentially be an unfunded mandate on local government, and a particularly onerous one. Whether one agrees or not that local law enforcement agencies should take on responsibilities that are traditionally the province of federal immigration agencies, once local governments are compelled to assume that responsibility, there will inevitably be a fiscal impact on them and a reorientation of service delivery priorities.
The costs of rounding up, processing, and detaining non-criminal illegal aliens will cost LEOs by interrupting normal law enforcement routines and by taking-up jail space that is needed for serious criminal infractions.
Even if there were to be federal funds appropriated as aid to local jurisdictions for the purpose of rounding up illegal aliens, if past experience is any example, that funding will lag and in the end be insufficient to cover local government costs for their participation in the effort. Local taxpayers will have to pick up the difference.
But even if the issue of fiscal costs were successfully resolved, there is no way to compensate local governments and their citizens for the local law enforcement functions that were foregone or suspended during the mass round up — and the undesirable consequences that result from that suspension or reduction in the general law enforcement function.
Constitutional Violations, Resulting Litigation, and Associated Costs
It is a credible argument to warn that the proposed mass roundup and deportation of illegal aliens will net not just illegal aliens but law-abiding citizens as well. That will likely result in some rights violations, which could well result in some judgments of liability against individuals and jurisdictions. And, that would result in some measure of public expenditure.
I think that subjecting local governments to the potential liability of mass deportation efforts is irresponsible and will force them to do something their better judgment, fiscal concerns, and preferred policy options would militate against. Therefore, the federal government, if it pursues a mass deportation strategy, should fully indemnify local officials and agencies against legal challenges that may arise out of their enforcement of immigration pertaining to deportation efforts.
Understandably, people are upset about the inadequate enforcement of federal immigration laws over the last several decades. Since the issue is an emotional one, it leads to a sense of urgency that can lead to sloppy law making and a failure to take a more comprehensive approach to a problem that was not created overnight and, realistically, will be solved only over time.
Photo Source: CNN